Do You Feel Guilty When You Experience Joy?

By: LUMO Leaders

- Publish On: October 13, 2022

 Where do you find joy? 

I recently attended a women’s networking event on a rooftop here in Charlotte, NC.  It was a gorgeous fall evening, the skyline was all around us, and we were asked this simple question. Many of us paused. With scrunched up, embarrassed faces we looked at each other, hesitated, shrugged our shoulders and said, “I find it at work?” Yes, with a big fat question mark at the end of the statement.

Why the hesitation? Why the face? Why the question mark?

We chatted about this over charcuterie and drinks and concluded that what we felt was straight up guilt for admitting out loud that we found joy in our work. Isn’t that a head scratcher? It’s 2022 and a group of successful, happy women feel guilty about loving their work.

Here is what I know about guilt – it’s a total joy crusher. It sucks the life out of my well-being and robs me of any sense of contentment or peace. It silently lurks in the shadows waiting to throw a wet blanket on me. Guilt leaves me feeling bad about myself – as a mom, partner and entrepreneur. It gets in the way of my relationships – primarily my relationship with myself.

Here is the other thing I know about guilt. It’s just a feeling. And, while I love feelings as much as the next person, they aren’t the truth. By definition, guilt means you’ve done something wrong or even worse, committed a crime. Loving your work by definition doesn’t meet the criteria. 

If you can relate, try this when guilt shows up to ruin the party:

Notice it. Instead of trying to avoid guilt, start noticing all the times you feel it. The first step in transforming anything in your life is creating awareness around it. In this case, noticing when and where you feel guilty.  

Get curious. One of my favorite weapons against guilt is curiosity. When guilt comes up, instead of inviting it in and letting it take over — get curious. “Um, excuse me, what are you doing here??” Seriously, ask yourself: What is this really about? What do I need right now? Make curiosity your best friend.

Remember the big picture. Ask yourself why you do what you do. Think about what you’re most committed to. Remember your values. Think in terms of what really matters to you and see if your actions line up. When you see that your actions are in alignment with what matters most, guilt will stop running the show. If you see that your actions are not in alignment with what’s most important, then that’s something to investigate.

Next time you find yourself hesitating to fully embrace and experience joy, pause and take a look at what’s getting in the way. Most likely it’s just guilt and once you see it, you can definitely move it out of the way.  

Happy, wholly happy people must dance on the edge of the fine line between getting clear on what they desire and being grateful for what they already have.  – Lissa Rankin

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